Impact Learning Systems


Technology—Boon or Bane? Monica Postell

tech boon bane sml Technology—Boon or Bane?

Photo cour­tesy of haikugirlOz

I love tech­nol­ogy and its many promises but some­times I won­der: Is it really a boon to my work or is some­thing closer to the bane of my existence?

I'm an early adopter. (Pre­dictably, I can hardly wait to see what won­ders Apple's rumored mul­ti­me­dia tablet will offer.) Among my per­sonal hard­ware relics I count the case from my first 128K Mac­in­tosh that has the sig­na­tures of all the Apple engi­neers etched inside it. My col­lec­tion includes early flip phones, mul­ti­ple smart­phones and PDAs, ter­rific lap­tops from IBM, DELL and Apple, sev­eral gen­er­a­tions of wire­less routers, a range of flash mem­ory sticks (one with more mem­ory than the early space shut­tles had onboard), and, of course, three kinds of iPods and two gen­er­a­tions of iPhones. My Kin­dle has saved my back; no longer do I carry arm­loads of books when I travel. If I could just fig­ure out how to upload a Trainer's Man­ual, I'd really be set.

I revel in all the things I can now do that I didn't used to be able to do as a result of hard­ware and soft­ware inno­va­tions. For exam­ple, once upon a time in a tiny lit­tle win­dow­less room I sat next to a wiz­ard who sliced and spliced audio tape with awe­some pre­ci­sion. At the time it seemed that it hap­pened zip, zip, et voila! The recorded per­son could be heard say­ing her line exactly as writ­ten — no extra breathe noises or stum­bles. Remark­able! Now, of course, audio edit­ing is done dig­i­tally and my friendly sound engi­neer, Joel, has retired his razor blade and splic­ing tape. The fact that I can use a prod­uct like Gold­Wave or Audac­ity and do it myself now is just plain thrilling.

But here's my ques­tion: Is tech­nol­ogy really a boon to the instruc­tional designer or trainer? I mean, does any­one else hear a loud, time-sucking noise when it comes to tech­nol­ogy? For exam­ple, has any­one out there bought or installed new hard­ware or down­loaded soft­ware only to find that the com­puter now doesn't play well with the rest of the net­work or the appli­ca­tion needs a plug-in to work but, oops, the plug-in crashes the sys­tem? A part of me thinks it's fun to solve the rid­dles. Another more prac­ti­cal part of me screams "Time's a wast­ing!! Why doesn't this all work together?"

It's not only new hard­ware and soft­ware that eats time. There's a con­stant stream of new con­tent to explore; it's easy to get lost in it all. For exam­ple, I fol­low Tom Kuhlmann's blog on rapid eLearn­ing. It's jam packed with use­ful infor­ma­tion and prac­ti­cal tuto­ri­als. Here's the prob­lem, his blog often offers addi­tional links related to the topic. So what do I do? I fol­low those links and those links beget links and those links beget even more links. The next thing I know it's hours later and I still haven't fin­ished what I started work­ing on. Instead I may have two or three new resources and some prac­ti­cal but untried tech­niques and lots of inspiration.

Clearly there are lots of tech­no­log­i­cal things that intrigue me. Here are a few that I think have the poten­tial to enhance learning:

  • Col­lab­o­ra­tive tools like Google wave groups, twit­ter lists, and class blogs
  • Rapid eLearn­ing appli­ca­tions that allow excit­ing just-in-time development
  • Game-based learn­ing tech­nol­ogy that engages par­tic­i­pants and makes learn­ing fun.

Tech­nol­ogy — Boon or Bane? I can't decide. What do you think?

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  • Pen­gar Internet

    Great idea, thanks for this tip!

  • geld tricks

    Great idea, but will this work over the long run?

  • Glenn Friesen

    Tech­nol­ogy ampli­fies human behav­ior, I believe.

    Shout­ing for atten­tion isn't new, but adding fol­low­ers and tweet­ing to a world­wide audi­ence is. Being dis­trcted at work — per­haps work­ing a cross­word puz­zle or doo­dling when nobody's look­ing — isn't new, but div­ing into the per­sonal lives of strangers on Face­Book is.

    The down­side of the ampli­fi­ca­tion of human behav­ior, pro­vided by tech­nol­ogy, is imho, met by the upside of the ampli­fi­ca­tion — improved pro­duc­tiv­ity, being able to iden­tify groups with sim­i­lar inter­ests and con­nect with their mem­bers eas­ier, and improved access to infor­ma­tion and knowl­edge. I could only imag­ine what it would be like at a din­ner party 100 years ago, if some­one asked what the President's wife's mid­dle name was. We'd prob­a­bly all look at one another, dumb­founded at how to fig­ure out some­thing like that. Maybe we'd say it was triv­ial, and dis­cuss our horses or phi­los­o­phy. Nowa­days, we'd all pull out our smart­phones and know the answer within sec­onds. It's still triv­ial infor­ma­tion, but, hey, we'd feel smarter!

    The ques­tion that con­founds me, dis­cussed in the arti­cle above, is whether or not the time spent learn­ing a new tech­nol­ogy is worth it — espe­cially since tech­nol­ogy changes so quickly nowa­days. For me, learn­ing how to "be omnipo­tent" with Google Reader was unbe­liev­ably time-consuming, but soooo worth it. Learn­ing the hacks in Hot­mail? Not sure. I guess the answer lies in the prod­uct itself… does it pro­vide more util­ity that other offer­ings? How intu­itive is the tech to learn?

  • Glenn Friesen

    By the way, it's "LaVaughn" today, and was "Louise Her­ron" 100 years ago. :)

  • Dik­sha gupta

    tech­nol­ogy can be a boon or bane depend­ing on the human being or the user.

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